Thursday, December 30, 2004

Questions . . .

As a journalist, I never mastered the Barbara Walters-get-them-to-cry-by-asking-the-curve-ball-question technique. I tend to ask for name, rank and forget to ask for cereal choice. But as I've been reading around the blog scene, I've been intrigued with the folks who invite questions and then even further intrigued by the quality of the questions that are posed.

Made me think that I'd like to see if anyone out there has any interesting questions they often ask to break the ice, turn a conversation, or just delve a little deeper into the psyche of their conversational partner.

I'm going to start a list of some I've seen or some I've made up. You can add questions or you can answer some by clicking on comments or email me. As usual and as a journalist, I'm just curious!
  • If you could change one thing about the world, yourself, or both, what would it/they be?
  • What's the book, music (in whatever form you choose) or movie you'd want to have with you should you ever wind up on that infamous deserted island?
  • What quote (from book, music, movie, etc.) would sum up the last few years of your life?
  • What quote do you want the next few years to look like?
  • What's one thing you've done that you wish you could un-do?
  • What's one thing you've not done that you still have on your wish list?
  • When you think of a perfect moment where are you, who are you with, and what are you doing?
  • What music is playing in the background of the above mentioned moment?
  • When something tragic happens is your first reaction to act, pray, ignore or something else? Why?
  • What photograph (real or one you missed taking) from your past experiences do you wish you had in your possession to regularly reflect on and cherish?
  • What's your favorite sound, word, profession that you would do if you weren't in the one you're in?
  • What's your least favorite sound, word, profession that you wouldn't do even if you were forced?

Ok, that's enough for now. I may even try to answer a few of these myself!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Snow Thanks

Left on Thursday for the family gathering in Tennessee. Lots of folks asked if I had any trouble getting there. Not really, I replied, all I had to do was put my butt on a plane and let the pilot fly and then put my butt in the backseat of D's car and let him drive. Now they may have experienced a little difficulty what with the ice, snow, and crazy drivers who seem to think slamming on one's brakes is a good idea on a sheet of ice.

I'm grateful today for . . . Doc's acceptance of my family into his (on Christmas Eve which was also his 80th birthday, he told my mom and I that the two of us and my sister made his holidays), seeing hillsides and trees lit covered in snow and lit by the moon's glow, interaction with the crew that comes from Georgia and with whom I spend Christmas Eve (we continued our tradition of seeing a movie and eating at the only place in town that's open and yes for all you Christmas Story fans, it's a Chinese place!), playing a game with my twin's family in which we were all truly rolling in the floor with laughter, getting to know my sister's new husband and finding that I really, really like him, and being met at the airport by my family here, driven to my place and having a can of hot soup on a still kind of cold night in my chair with silence surrounding me and love filling me!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Smiley Things, vol. 2

Christmas time brings more reasons to smile . . . for instance when:
  • a three year old opens the book I gave her, exclaims the preschooler equivalent of "omigosh" and names every one of the Disney women on the cover by name
  • her slightly older brother invests every minute of the hour after he opened my gift to him putting the pieces together with the pleasure and concentration of an engineer
  • their older sister hugs herself in the jacket I gave her and then continues to don the jacket throughout the evening
  • friends-who-are-family know me well enough to give me the kind of gifts that I would give myself
  • my "date" who initially said no to going to dinner, cancels his previous plans and rounds out our group to a foursome
  • said foursome dine on glorious food and even better conversation (except for the part when the other three try to flirt with the waiter on my behalf!)
  • friends care enough to want to flirt with the waiter on my behalf
  • a day ends with such complete "rightness" during the holiday season

Monday, December 20, 2004

5 Minute Fudge

Worthy of note in this holiday season . . . Rachel Ray of the Food Network is my kitchen hero. She whipped up 5 Minute Fudge the other day and I knew I could repeat her success (sans the making it into a wreath complete with candied cherry holly . . . really, fudge does not a visually pleasing wreath make). Here's the recipe:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk (of course, I mean Eagle Brand!)
1 12 oz pkg of chocolate morsels
9 oz of butterscotch morsels (which means you're not using the whole bag)
nuts and/or other optional additions (she used currants but I used Heath Bar morsels)

Butter a round cake pan (and if you doing that whole wreath thing, cover a can in plastic wrap and insert it in the middle). Heat the sweetened condensed milk to just bubbling and add the morsels. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Add whatever you want to add but work fast. Place in pan. Refrigerate for 5 minutes and it's done!

Don't say I didn't give you a Christmas present!

Went to a Garden Party

Well, it wasn't quite a garden party. It was a going away bash at the local taco joint near the AIDS ministry that the gal had worked at for years and was now leaving for other employment.

As a volunteer with the ministry, I was invited to join the gathering. Mostly a time of drinks and conversation, the night took on an interesting twist when not one but two of the women in attendance outed themselves to me.

Leading me to a dilemma. What exactly is the Miss Manners-appropriate response to, "Well, not everyone knows this but I've followed where the Universe led and have accepted that I'm a lesbian"?

Quotable Quotes

I love to read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s column each Monday in the Houston Chronicle. He's a columnist living in Florida. Here's a few lines from today's:

"We are . . . a nation of short memories and cherished myths. For us, history doesn't matter -- right up until it does."

He's recommending a history book called A Dream of Freedom by Diane McWhorter that takes readers back to the years when civil rights were a battleground. She says, "We now look back on it as a form of social insanity, but it felt normal at the time. It felt normal to whites and most blacks. The African Americans who fought to overthrow this were a tiny minority and really revolutionary and didn't get the support of the general black public until it was pretty clear they were going to win."

To which he concludes and challenges, "So McWhorter's book is valuable for more than just the obvious reasons. It's good that it will present young people with a history they ought to know. But it's also good that it will encourage them to look beyond the blinders of present day. If they begin to understand how inequities could have felt normal 40 years ago, maybe they'll question the inequities that feel normal today."

Wow! And what might those inequities be?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Just in Case You Doubt Me

Here's a paragraph from an actual profile from one of those online services:

I can often be seen in public parks interpreting mime performances for the blind. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I write opera, I manage time efficiently. I am a test pilot for renovated WWII fighter planes and I am a consultant to the government of three South Pacific island nations. My bills are all paid on time. On weekends I make Jai Lai baskets with a group of orphans. I woo women with my sensuous trombone playing. I am an accomplished matador, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru. During the summer months, to practice free rock climbing, I never use an elevator. On Wednesdays, after work, I repair electrical appliances free of charge. I have met the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa and I can reconcile oxymorons. On the side of a Tibetan mountain, under the tutelage of a one hundred and six year old Buddhist monk and after a three month fast, I achieved Nirvana. I am an abstract painter and a concrete analyst. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy eveningwear. When I'm not doing these things, I'm usually at the feet of the girl I'm dating mkaing sure she has everything her heart desires. P.S. I am drunk as I'm writing this last paragraph. Lol.

Now really, what's not to love????


As kids, my brother, cousins and I would "play-like". Sometimes we'd "play-like" we were athletes. Other times we'd be actors on a soap opera. There was a touch of the drama queen in everyone of us.

I got to thinking the other day that "play-like" or pretending wasn't as much a part of my past as the years might contend.

Don't we often pretend that the world thinks as we do, and for those we know don't, well, they're just the minority? Or if we're pretty convinced that we are indeed in the minority regarding an issue, we then pretend that we have the majority of the minority covered.

I know that I "play-like" people are inherently good. In other words, I don't assume that someone I just met is determined to aggravate me or is hiding something from me. I pretend the world is operating on good intentions . . . until I'm proven wrong.

I think that's why the whole online matching services threw me. I believed the profiles. I believed the guys cracking the jokes really were just trying to find someone to got to the movies with or (but even I didn't think this one could be true for that many) walk on the beach with. I thought they wanted quiet dinners or long talks.

And when I discovered that some of the funny ones are also cruel, and some of the smart ones are also perverted, and some of the older ones are just plain boring . . . well, it was disturbing.

This line of thinking crosses over into the church world too, don't you think? We "play-like" we have the answers. Or we "play-like" just showing up is enough. Again, it's somewhat disturbing.
So I'm ready to "play-like" that those guys aren't a cross-section of reality. I'm content to "play-like" there are some decent guys out there who want to talk and actually get to know me. And I'm going to "play-like" my faith is solid.

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Hope I Never Feel this Way

While I never want to feel this insignificant (or depressed or lonely), there is a phrase in the current award-winning movie called Sideways that absolutely captures the sense of being overwhelmingly overwhelmed. I give it kudos for how descriptive it is:

"I feel like a thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper . . . like a smudge of sewage on a corner of a tissue that is floating out to sea."

Happy Thoughts

  • People who see a good movie and say, "You would especially like this." Then when you do see it, you find it to be funny, thought-provoking and well-done . . . leading you to be grateful that people see you as appreciating that kind of thing.
  • Someone saying, "You haven't blogged in a while and I miss it."
  • Going to the office refrigerator and finding it filled with party leftovers available for the gnoshing.
  • Wasabi, horseradish, or any other food product that opens up your sinuses.
  • Realizing you've helped someone simply by offering an opinion (that is, of course, based on years of experience and training).
  • When you say the exact right thing to someone who is hurting.
  • When you say absolutely nothing to someone who is hurting and that silence is the best gift of all.
  • Coming to terms with the fact that the really BIG Christmas gift surprises don't happen to single folks of a certain age.
  • Realizing that single folks of a certain age don't have to have surprises to enjoy giving themselves a gift.
  • The fact that a "splash of the color red" is the very best way to describe what adding that color is like.
  • Knowing that for family who feel like friends and friends who feel like family there is absolutely nothing you can do to make them give up on you.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Family Choices

Last night I was one of the stops on a progressive dinner Christmas party that included my local family . . . the ones I've chosen to invite into my home, my life, my decisions.

Today my home town is honoring my stepfather for his 80th birthday. As the town doctor for almost 40 years he brought most of the town's 2000 residents into the world. When I asked whether the Tennessee clan wanted me there for this party or for Christmas, the answer was unanimous, so I'm missing today's celebration. But I called this morning to start the day with them and I plan on calling to get the blow by blow later.

The families we're born to and those we choose -- I feel so incredibly fortunate that both of mine love the other. My mother may wish I was closer to home but she speaks with the parental pride evident when a child makes first string or gets the lead in the play when she says, "I know they look out for you, Karen. Tell them all hi." And then proceeds to ask about each by name.

When my circle of friends joined hands last night to recognize that we are not together by chance and express our gratitude for the forces that brought us together and continue to bind us, I remembered again how right it all is. Like the family of my birth, we ignore certain behaviors, tolerate others, and push back when necessary. Like the family of my birth, we may not always like each other, but love will always be a part of our circle.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Meaningful Moments

Every culture has its language. The church world is no different. Understanding the words isn't that difficult but the real meaning? Hmmmm that's open for interpretation. For example:

"I think God is teaching me . . . "
Translation: I'm confused.

"I was going through a time of humbling."
Translation: I screwed up . . . publicly.

"I'm going to spend time fasting and praying on this."
Translation: I'm really confused.

"He's having struggles with obedience."
Translation: He's not doing what I want him to do.

"We need to see this in context."
Translation: We're all confused.

Know any others?

Monday, December 06, 2004

I Was a Child

I was a child . . . when a bee bit me on the leg and I ran from the side yard to the front porch in tears and my father caught me in his arms, heard my tale of woe and took a Camel cigarette, tore it open, spit into the tobacco and rubbed the brown goo on the bite.

I was a child . . . when I saw the look of disappointment in Daddy's eyes as he discovered yet again that the scratch marks on my twin brother's arms and the red marks around my neck had come from yet another fight between us.

I was a child . . . when on our way to the dentist's office he stopped at the local beer joint to conduct some "business" and I worried that Momma would find out and that we'd all be in trouble.

I was a child . . . when he told the family to get in the truck and we rode down to the bottom and he cut cane poles from the river bank and tied the red and white bobs to the fishing line, baited the hook and made me stand in the mosquito-laden heat for what seemed like hours so we could have a family fishing outing.

I was a child . . . when he taught my brothers how to scale a fish and then fried crappy and hush puppies in a long cast iron pot that rested on two eyes on the stove top and demanded that we clean our plates because he'd spent hours "over the old hot stove."

I was a child . . . when he threw the pocket knives that he had given my brothers as gifts as far into the woods as he could throw them after he learned that they had drawn the knives on each other in a wrestling match that turned ugly.

I was a child . . . when he took my sister to the back room to punish her with his belt and she cried out in terror that didn't quite sound terrified and then returned to the table with almost a smile because in fact, he'd hit the bed, not her, and they laughed rather than cried.

I was a child . . . when Mother cried out on the eve of Christmas eve for my sister to come quickly and call the doctor, and uncles and aunts came and got me from my bed and took me to my grandmother's house and eventually told me that Daddy had gone to heaven.

I was a child . . . and then I wasn't.


Just saw the film The Incredibles. You gotta love the courage of the film makers given that that's quite a name to live up to. And, technically, it does. Only a few moments into this Pixar production and you forget that these are "animated" characters . . . ok, ok, so when she stretches from one side of a helicopter to the other and when he picks up a building maybe that's a good reminder that it's a cartoon but you know what I mean.

However, I can't say that I really, really liked this movie. In fact, I thought it was too long. Almost as if it was so convinced of its ability to transcend the cartoon world that it took itself too seriously at times and we actually spent waaaay too much time on character development. Truly, did you really ever need to know Popeye had "issues" with Brutus???

I did want to share one line that I found memorable, true, and made me just a tad melancholy. When the father admits that he doesn't want to go to his son's fourth grade "graduation" he says, "He's just moving from the fourth grade to the fifth. I mean really, people are simply finding more and more ways to celebrate mediocrity."

One of the film's themes seems to be that if everyone is special (as we've all been told via Sesame Street) then the only result is that no one is special.

While I didn't leave wanting to become a member of the film's fan club, I will say that it's been a while since an animated figure made me say hmmmmm....

Friday, December 03, 2004

Semi-sweet Revenge

I'm in the only room connected to the outside world at this place in the boondocks. I'm reading the blog of dooce and laughing out loud at her . . . ahem . . . rather colorful way of describing her parenting skills . . . and if this were audible and the FCC were involved, there would be plenty of bleeps to drown out her profanity.

Know who is sitting not 10 feet away at his own computer, checking his own email, and talking out loud to the screen?? The same man from the previous blog. I take certain comfort in the fact that while he can control the meeting and, in many ways, the world in which I work, he can't control what I have on the screen in front of me.

I know this is petty . . . but I'm still smiling.


A man . . . not just a man, but a man in a leadership role . . . not just any leadership but a leader of a MAJOR missions organization actually said today, "I wish we weren't always the ones who had to adapt to the ethnic minorities. I mean if we were entering a new culture, we'd adapt to it. I don't see why they can't sometimes be asked to adapt to ours."

We were talking about the lack of women and ethnic leaders on the boards and in leadership roles at mission organizations.

Can you begin to imagine how much fun I'm having at this consultation . . . in the boondocks of VA . . . where I walk in the cold with the cows and the stars at night in order to avoid other such fun conversations????!!!!! Can you?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


There are days when I think I've left my fundamental background and small town mentality behind and then there are days when that varmint raises its ugly head so quickly it takes a moment for me to bop it back into place!

Today was such a day.

World AIDS Day prompted the hospice where I volunteer to set up an information table at various health fairs held on campuses around the city. I said I would help at one of the larger schools that wasn't too far from my work.

When I arrived, I got the scoop on what we were to say, encourage, promote, give away, etc. from the younger woman who had the shift prior to mine. I paused at the sight of the condoms. Fortunately, I didn't gasp aloud as my former fundamentalist self might once had. I simply asked about another item on the table and then she said, "Oh, and we're supposed to point out that the mint flavored condoms are for oral sex only. The others are for intercourse."

I've worked a trade show before (sold sugar scrubs just last week to a bunch of junior leaguers and for several years, tried to sell books to booksellers who seemed to only be interested in "holy hardware"/"Jesus junk"). I've handed out flyers at many a missions fair describing the humanitarian needs of an entire population.

But I have never had to describe the differences between two particular types of condoms!

To be quite honest, I didn't have to do that today either. The college students had no hesitation about asking about the volunteer opportunities while simultaneously securing a handful of protection. They were much more interested in telling me details about lost loved ones (to the disease) than my listing the attributes of the prophylatics. And I obligingly and thankfully listened.

Listening gave me a chance to consider just how different these young adults were from the me of that age. I came to my college years having had one night of semi-drunken revelry which I immediately attoned for by "walking the aisle" and "rededicating" my life, a small number of back seat sexual close calls that weren't so close that I couldn't hold fast to my claim of virginity, and a religious background that had us debating the merits of going to the homecoming dance or not since it might cause someone to "stumble." I left that Christian college even more righteous.

So open tables of free condoms (ours wasn't the ony one) and open discussions with complete strangers regarding STDs wasn't exactly my college experience. I began to wonder if fundamentalist to secularist years aren't somewhat akin to human to dog year ratios and if I might not actually be about 20 years old in experiential counting!

But then I began to share my story . . .of what the work at the hospice meant to me, of how I'd seen the residents change from very affluent but abandoned by family to now homeless and often criminal clientele. I spoke of how the facility had changed, of all I'd learned. I even got into a lengthy discussion with a fellow volunteer about the spectrum of how churches respond to homosexuality and was able to assure him that while his personal experience might not yet support it (his born again partner of 18 years had recently given up the relationship because he could no longer endure the guilt) there were believers who would embrace him as is.

And soon, I felt like the wise, welcoming, and -- if I might be so bold and alliterate -- wonderful woman I know myself to be . . . safe and secure from all alarms.



Not a bad way to start a day . . . a month . . . a year . . . a lifetime.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Word from Our Sponsors

Some have asked about the comment button . . . I finally discovered where the button was to turn off the need for registering. So now, if you want to leave a comment and/or start a conversation, you can without a hassle.

Also, if for any reason, you want to be reminded weekly (that's all I'm going to send out) about new posts, then scroll down the right side and submit your name/email to NotifyList.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

Monday, November 29, 2004

God as Defined by Quantum Physics

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know but to be in the mystery." -- Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D., physicist and source for the film What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Described as "part documentary, part story, and part elaborate and inspiring visual effects and animations" this film presents the argument that "both science and religion describe the same phenomena." And -- if I'm reading this correctly -- it does so with the commentary of 5 physicists, 7 doctors and biologists, a theologian, and Ramtha -- a 35,000 year old mystic, philosopher, master teacher and hierophant who channels his contribution through an American woman JZ Knight.

I broke the carnal rule regarding a film such as this one. I went to see it by myself. Someone else has to go so I can debrief this sucker!

What Would Miss Manners Say?

I saw more flaccid penises Saturday than any girl needs to encounter in one day.

I know that some who read that will think that I’m not being very professional about my work at the AIDS hospice, that a professional would never divulge such tidbits and make the observations I’m about to make.

All I can say is . . . I’m a VOLUNTEER!!! This is not normal to me, this is not something I see every day. This is still – even after eight years – an oddity for me. My volunteer team is not there every week and additionally I spend the majority of the time in the kitchen or the laundry room and there are absolutely no penis sightings in those locations.

So pardon me if this is all still rather new for me.

My overexposure came by way of diaper changes. Though we’ve probably had an exhibitionist or two come our way, I’ve never had to deal much with that side of things. This was strictly the human body in need of care.

The nurse took the lead, so for the most part I just had to be at the ready . . . ready to roll the man on his side, ready to shift the diaper into place, ready to grab an extra pull sheet, just ready. But what I’m never ready for is what to do with my eyes during the down time. The seconds tick every so slowly when you are dealing with a complete stranger’s genitalia and you’re unaccustomed to the practice. So what is only taking minutes seems to go on for days.

First there’s the unveiling. . . Ok, now we know what we’re dealing with. Then there’s the battle to not evaluate . . . That settled there’s the shifting of positions to remove the diaper. Now comes THE moment. While the nurse cleans, what does one look at? The act of cleansing? The wall? The dying plant in the corner? Certainly not the face of the resident! That would be too personal, don’t you think?

Finally, the cleaning complete, we get back to the flurry of activity where you can imagine that you are on ER and shifting the new accident victim from gurney to bed as you place and secure the new diaper.

Inevitably, I’ll tape my gloved finger to the diaper at least once during this process but, hey, it’s all downhill from here so who cares? I shrug, tug and soon enough we’re all safe and secure.

Maybe some day it will seem completely natural. Maybe someday I won’t see anything at all.

But if I’m truthful, I kinda think I don’t want that day to come. These moments are the moments when I see the resident’s humanity, when I’m reminded that before they became a statistic, a hospice resident, a person with AIDS . . . they were human. Some of them were not too kind, some of them would have scared me if I met them on the street given that they are often criminals or junkies. But nevertheless, they were human.

And -- I pray -- at some point, shared an intimacy with someone that went beyond simple caregiving by an anonymous volunteer who can't seem to focus.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Official Closing

This phase is officially over.

Since this stage or phase or whatever you want to call this particular period on my journey has been a ragged ass job from its beginning, I’ve decided to turn my back on the reactive way of thinking I’ve employed in the past and elect to end this now . . . before anyone gets hurt . . . especially me.

Frankly, I’m bored with it.

And according to the movie I just saw that combines quantum physics with theology and psychology and cartoon peptides and Marlee Matlin playing a photographer, I can make the choices that change my future. So even though the movie is called “What the Bleep Do We Know?” and you may leave the theater thinking that’s a great question, I came away with confirmation that it’s definitely time to act.

I use the term “phase” loosely. But I’m not sure what else to call it. I’ve been silently amused by how many people who don’t see me day in and out have lowered their voice during a phone conversation and inquired, “So how are you . . . really?”

I usually have to think a moment about why they’re using the universal sign for “yes-this-is-not-a-truly-intimate-friendship-but-I’m-going-to-pretend-we-have-that-kind-of-vulnerability-between-us” and then, matching the gravity of their tone, I reply, “Fine, really.” Trying desperately not to sound too chipper, I remind myself that these people have no clue. They don’t know that I delved into denial the first three years of the marriage, anger took up years 4-8, bargaining was spread throughout but came to a peak in years 9-13, depression came in year 14 and acceptance prevailed in year 15-17 when I left.

By the time these well-meaning acquaintances hear the news, it’s past tense for me but new to them and I have to go back three spaces just to not seem like a heartless bitch.

But this post-divorce phase has been something different. This one got kicked off with the euphoria of freedom followed closely by a sense of overwhelming options and a need for wait-and-see.

Messy, very messy. Because this opportunity looks as good as that one. And why not try this? And what’s wrong with that?

But it’s all getting boring and I’m ready for some order. I’m ready to choose. I’m walking away from wait and see.

I choose to see . . . now.*

*By the way, I have absolutely no clue what this means but I felt the need to state it. I’ve come to realize that now is all I know. I may hope for tomorrow or faith for my next act, but all I know is this moment, all I can control is this moment. And in this moment, I’m ready for the next adventure.

kc04 has left the chat room

My free trial period is over and I've officially closed out my account on the singles online connection. After 52 men ranging from computer geeks to a cop to a motorcycling rebel without a cause to (gasp!) a 27-year-old and even a woman checked out my profile . . . resulting in a few emails and fewer instant messages . . . I determined that this avenue for making contact with available conversationalists et al was just not my preferred form of interaction.

I felt like I needed a tour guide! I know I must have body language at least. Was the fact that someone looked at your profile the same as a quick glance across a crowded room when your eyes meet and you think "hmmmm this could be interesting" or was it that moment when you realize "omigod, he's looking and he's going to think I'm checking him out when in fact I was looking at the buffet table directly behind him and wondering if anyone would notice if I went back a third time."

And how exactly do you respond to an email message? With another message giving the same info as what's on your profile? or with a suggestion to meet? or an offer of a phone call? No, not a call, you can't give too much information too fast, right? It's just too filled with question marks!

So I'm back to real life, real time, real safe, real dull . . . oh maybe I'll give it another shot later!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving Menu

G's brunch? Outstanding . . . eggs, homemade cranberry bread, fruit salad with real whipped cream.

The parade? Well, let's just say that sometimes it pays to be short. I asked a hunka, hunka fireman if my friend and I could stand on the truck for a better view . . . of the parade of course. He said yes and well . . .

And later that day . . .
The pumpkin soup from Rachel Ray's "30 Minute Meals" was an official success.

The turkey breast (since there were only three of us) was average but the rosemary was a nice touch.

The dressing -- even though I followed my grandmother's recipe to the letter -- was . . . well let's just say we really didn't need gravy since the dressing never did quite become dressing.

My friend's baked onions -- true Southern cooking since they included both a can of cream of mushroom soup and potato chips -- were delicious (of course! since they contained the most calories).

And G's apple cake with cream cheese icing? Well, it was cream cheese icing! for goodness sake, how could it not be slap ya momma good! (Not that I'm a slap your mother kind of woman . . .but omigosh.)

TV on Turkey Evening is less than eventful and since everyone was in a coma the adventures pretty much ended at the meal. Still a good day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Should Have Known Better

I thought it might be different now.

When I first heard of online dating services several years ago, I was creeped out. The little bit of exposure I had to it suggested this was the last desperate attempt of the truly disconnected.

So recently when several of my friends spoke positively about it, I was still very hesitant. Then this weekend happened.

I often say that my chances of meeting someone for nothing more than a simple date are rather limited. I mean I work with married pastors and spend my playtime with gay men and girlfriends. Not the combination for lots of connections, right?

Since I'm not giving up any of my people groups, I determined that I would just have to do the things I love and was sure that I'd encounter someone who shared some of my interests. I mean my interests are varied, very varied, so that should increase my chances right?

Tsk, tsk, tsk, I say to me!

This weekend I discovered that two of my non-gay-oriented outlets for connections had failed me miserably. After a fairly lengthy conversation, I'm fairly sure the trainer I was thinking might be a potential is gay. And one of my buddies saw the other guy -- a theater connection -- in a gay bar. ARGH!!!!

I want to think that's why I tried the online dating gig. I want to think it was a reaction to being dashed twice in one weekend. I want to think it was temporary insanity.

But I did it. I completed the profile and went online last night to see what my efforts had wrought.

The very first guy who instant messaged me? Wanted computer sex. Yep, that's right. Was ready to "please" me right there at the keyboard!

I have five days free on this service. What do you think the odds are that I become an active member?

It's a good thing I like my friends!!! Looks like they are going to continue to see a lot of me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Guiltless Thanks

Guilt is as much a Southern delicacy as turnip greens with hot sauce or biscuits with sausage-flecked white gravy. I even feel guilty when I acknowledge that my mother who I love dearly plated up guilt with the finesse of a gourmet . . . that's how good she was at instilling it.

But I can't blame her. She learned the lessons well having discovered at an early age that with a dying mother and a house full of half brothers and her own brothers and sisters it would be her fate to help in the fields and raise the now nutzoid younger sister who seems incapable of appreciating anything!

I digress.

She also sat through the Bible teachings of a fundamentalist approach to faith. Which meant when she was older with her own children and (gasp) a non-church-attending-Methodist for a husband, she knew that we would only become the Christians we were intended to be if we attended every service offered by our small First Baptist congregation.

Fundamentalism and family -- two of the best guilt inducers traditionally served up as the main course at most holiday gatherings.

As a result, I spent most of my faith walk with guilt as a constant companion. I learned the Roman Road but never walked anyone through the marked New Testament I prepared in Training Union. I read the missionary prayer list in the girls' mission magazine on Wednesday night but misplaced the magazine throughout the week. Which meant I didn't reference those souls in the infrequent times when I actually set aside a Quiet Time (for those clueless with the language of this paragraph, that would be the time I was supposed to spend thinking about how God loved me and how I should pay Him back in some way with at least a little attention).

I clung to guilt even as an adult. Any straying off the path (a harsh word to a stranger, any act that might cause another to "stumble", a missed opportunity to "witness" on a plane or in a cab or wherever the last evangelist had suggested was a great place to win the lost) tightened the grip on me.

Then it happened. I intentionally broke the rules. I'm not talking about a slip, a curious blunder that resulted in less-than-spiritual-behavior on my part, an oops moment. No, I'm talking about knowing that what I was about to do went against every teaching I'd ever held as truth and thinking, "Then so be it" as I committed the act.

The push of that domino became the most liberating act of my life. And the chain reaction has been quite a ride. I'm not through with it all yet, but in the midst of it. And what I know at this point, is that the Creator God that I embrace isn't about chains like bitterness, anger, intimidation or guilt.

I think that's why I reacted so strongly recently when I read a letter from a missionary living in Angola. Nearing Thanksgiving, gratitude was on my mind and my first thought was "Thank you God that I don't live in that place." And my second thought was "And thank you that I don't feel guilty for thinking that." Eventually, I got around to gratitude for the way that missionary writes so vividly of life there and that for whatever reason, he and his family continue to try and serve the people there and even thanked God for the fact that while Angola is one of the most horrendous spots to live on earth, it's actually gotten better than when I first started reading these letters.

While I've moved beyond the ingrained reaction of my youth and guilt no longer has its hold on me, I do feel an internal push to respond. Needs like this letter conveys are everywhere and I can't continue to live as if inaction is an option. But this time my reaction is not a guilt-induced one. Instead, I simply want to do something. I don't know if it will be in the area of AIDS or cancer or another particularly devastating disease that has claimed the active part of a couple of my friends' lives. But I know that that domino string is still in process, freedom is now my faithful companion, and I freely accept that I can make a difference and will.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Crossing Cultures in Suburbia

I spent the weekend in a land I rarely visit -- where the language requires my utmost focus and the native attire is so unique I find my reactions ranging from amused to appalled.

Suburbia . . . where the "woods" are planted uniform distances apart and the "lands" are manicured within inches of their roots . . . where bright lights scream the names of chain stores and eateries . . . where entire families from Third World countries could be housed in the SUVs taking up two parking spaces in overcrowded parking lots.

Oh . . . I know there's nothing wrong with suburban living and that every family has an extensive list of arguments as to why its best for them. But I also know that there's nothing right about it for me.

I was working a trade show for a friend of mine whose target customers are the same women driving those SUVs, shopping in those chain stores and feeding their own families from familiar and overly advertised restaurants.

In fact, I was washing the hands of those women as I touted the benefits of natural oils (six, count 'em) and sugar for the purpose of exfoliation. Well . . . I washed and touted when they let me. Frankly, sales weren't overwhelming and I spent a great deal of the time with my partner evaluating the fashion statements parading by.

I came to loathe what could be done with a feather! Sticking it in one's cap is no longer enough it seems. Now it hangs from purses, portrudes from shoes, dangles from belts, and adds heighth -- lots and lots of heighth -- to tablescapes involving ironworks, pumpkins, gourds and mass quantities of hot glue.

I detemined that while some women can pull off a fashion risk others should pull it off . . . NOW, in the nearest possible restroom before they cause irreparable harm to those watching.

I don't know where the obsession with fringe-tickling ponchos, scarves made from puffy balls and the aforementioned feathers has come from but surely there's a medication that can take care of it.

I told a friend that I was making the 45 minute drive each day to explore new worlds and that I coveted his prayers as I traversed uncharted terrains and he suggested that I might find I had more in common with the natives than I imagined.

I cursed him.

Then I thought about it. We did share a few things in common. For example, we are women and we . . . uh . . . let's we . . . uh . . . .

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Signs of Aging

I got to see Barry Manilow live in his "final" tour because I clean toilets at an AIDS hospice. Someone donated free tickets to the volunteers.

And being a glutton for punishment I couldn't let the night stand on its own as a reminder of how much time has passed since my teens, "Mandy" and discovering that Mr. Manilow "writes the songs that make the whole world sing." No, I had to enhance the experience by inviting my 23-year-old colleague to join me.

So I didn't just walk down memory lane with the songster, smiling mistily at thoughts of when I heard this song first, who I was kissing when that one came on the radio, wondering why I never learned to dance the way they did on American Bandstand. Instead I began to hear and see through the eyes of my "have-very-little-clue-who-this-guy-is" friend. I watched the elderly crowd gingerly make their way down to the floor in attire ranging from disco-dented-sequined T-shirts, killer heels with boas, an "I-don't-care-if-I-have-a-bulging-midsection-prom dress," and several "does-this-make-my-hips-look-big?" pullovers.

We placed bets on how many husbands were there strictly on condition that they would benefit in the bedroom if they complied. We marveled at modern science and its ability to stretch a woman's face beyond its capacity creating an almost post-human permanent expression of marvel. And we enjoyed the view of the many, many attractive men with incredible fashion sense who came with companions equally attractive and equally male. Ahh, the injustice of it all!

I tried to convey the complexity of all that is Manilow to my own companion . . . his journey from commercial jingle writer to Bette's accompanist to disco delights to balladeer, but she wasn't buying it. I think she may have grasped the grandness that is he, when they showed a clip from a "Midnight Special" appearance when "Mandy" first came out and then he rose like the phoenix from the stage playing the same song plus 30 years. But otherwise, she tended to cringe alot . . . especially when Barry danced. I took to covering her eyes in order to avoid the retching sounds. And, frankly, it gave me something to do in order to avoid the sight myself. Let's just say it wasn't pretty.

I'm all for celebrations of long-term careers. I'd go again if any of the other radio giants of my teens come this way and someone offers me free seats. But I have to admit, my added years added less than romantic interpretations to his so-familiar lyrics. I couldn't decide if this was a better soundtrack for a menopause medication or a Viagra commercial . . .

When will our eyes meet
When can I touch you
When will this strong yearning end
And when Will I hold you again
I feel the change comin' --
I feel the wind blow
I feel brave and daring!
I feel my blood flow

Still "somewhere in the night" I found the courage to rise, "make it through the rain", toss away my "Brooklyn blues" and like those "stompin' at the Savoy," take a "daybreak" and swing to "Copa." "Even now" I can't smile without thinking about it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Treadmill Musings

Equilibrium is death.
How do you disturb toward the edge
Of the chaos where answers lie?
Sunday morning sidewalks
Suggests Johnny Cash.
Or maybe it was another sip of beer?
Why would a straight man
Pretend there are multiple reasons
For him to stop by a gay bar?
Wonder if I can wear those pants in the back
Of the closet, in the next-size-down section
Of my lame attempt at organization.
Will the sweat pouring off my face
Cause a malfunction in the wiring of this treadmill?
And how would forensics explain that one?
CSI is a good show
But gross.
Now I’m back to death,
And my time here is done.

Beauty and the Beast

She pats and smears and smudges
Lips, eyes – the face held captive in
the compact’s mirror
Beauty to behold
Yet the Beast is only an arm’s length away
Ready to devour and consume

I hold high my regard to disregard
such attempts
Yet on occasion I also fall victim to
fiends of self-doubt and questioning
And check and recheck reflection space
to insure I am presentable

So, accepting a shared reality,
I’ll give the girl her due.

She is beautiful.

One Woman's Perspective

A continuum
Girl to woman
Winsome to wise
But movement is not always forward
And forward does not always equal progress

Moments, maddening moments
When mother meets child
And sees impending doom
But can only smile

Youth rarely listens
Deafening is the noise of their ever-flowing ideas
Yet age also cannot hear through the
sounds of arguments won and lost.

So they play the game
3 steps forward, 1 back, 2 to the side
She waits to soothe her
She longs to push her past her inhibitions
And they both continue wanting.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Things I Learned Last Week

  • When you see two guys in skull caps looking like a couple of teenaged skaters, one cowboy, a trucker type complete with mesh, billed cap, and a guy in dreds, you shouldn't automatically assume these are just a bunch of young 'uns who are "playing at" being a band. You could be watching the South Austin Jug Band prep for a few hours of pure poetry on instruments ranging from violins to mandolins to the best lead guitar I've heard in a loooong while. If so, you should count yourself very fortunate.
  • And on that note, I learned that "rhythm guitar" is what they do with it more than what it is . . . . For all you musicians out there, this is your notice that I'm not one, I just appreciate good music and want to know more!
  • Movies that delve into existential questions about the meaning of life, utilize hot air balloons as metaphors, and allow the good looking lead to only shed his shirt in order to brush his teeth and take a dive in a pool (another metaphor for something I'm sure) are NOT exactly Friday night fare.
  • Dana Owens, aka Queen Latifah, has a way with a torch song.
  • White people should really think twice (or maybe three or four times) about trying to dance like black people . . . especially if they are at a festival and maybe have had a few too many drinks and the music is zydeco and/or the blues and the aforementioned white people feel the need to use the entire dance floor for just two steps!
  • Corn and cheese enchiladas at Jalepenos are a great reason to get up in the morning and do your weight training before Sunday brunch.
  • Tomball is a long drive but worth it when good friends are at the end of the journey.
  • Third Ward has a personality all its own and, though we're only passing acquaintances I'm glad we've met.
  • I hope someday someone will write something like this about me: "Simplicity after complexity is widely informed and never insulting." (Andrew Jones said it about Leonard Sweet's new book.)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

In One Day, vol 2

I was a short order cook at an AIDS hospice juggling the flipping of pancakes, sausage, as well as eggs over easy and totally screwing up grits while warming bacon and hashbrowns so that all would time out fairly equally and allow me time to feed the guy who was shouting every few minutes or so . . . not at me, just in general. That was before I got to the grocery store and got all the stuff for the pot of chili I left for later. Patty melt, anyone?

Next I was a diva (though asleep in the chair) as E shortened and touched up the follicles.

I was an exercise guru and got in 4.5 miles at a fairly good elevation (no, I haven't moved, I was on a treadmill).

I was a cultural explorer and arts patron as I joined Project Row Houses for their annual celebration.

I was music junkie . . . enjoying both zydeco and the blues at the Eldorado Ballroom, a historic Third Ward former club now restored gathering place.

A day of diverstiy . . . you gotta love it!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Generalizations Are Just Too General

I read a document this week from a denominational agency that bothered me. Once again it was putting women in a category I find unacceptable. And once again I ranted and raved against it using the term "church" when what I really meant was "institution." And what I should have meant was that particular institution.

Last night God had to be smiling. Because as a reminder that "all" is pretty comprehensive and therefore generally the wrong noun to use when speaking of individuals, organizations, gender, races, animals, minerals and generally anything bigger than a breadbox, I got a phone call.

The call was from one of the head honchos of a major evangelical organization. He and I once served on a board together. I say "once" because I resigned just before I divorced. This board was made up of very missions-oriented, very conservative, mostly (would be "all" except for one) white men over 50 and yours truly. I had that freckle-on-an-albino feeling for pretty much every meeting I attended. While the executive director of the organization, this gentleman, and a couple of others assured me I was welcomed to continue divorced or not, I found it more than I could handle at that time.

The call concerned my serving in an advisory capacity at a meeting the group will have in three weeks. The meeting is to envision the next shape of the organization when the current exec retires. Since I admire the current exec as much as any leader I've known and since I usually enjoy dreaming about the future with a group, I said yes to the invitation.

It was a sidenote that had to bring about God's chuckle. The man said, "Yeah, we were talking about the next exec and who 'he' might be and what 'he' might need to focus on when someone said, 'You keep saying 'he.' Any chance you'd be open to a woman in that role?' And I said, 'Well frankly I'd be open to it but I can't think of a too many women who could do it (pause) except the one I'm talking to right now.'"

To say I was taken aback is the definition of understatement. I don't want the job. I'm really not right for the job. But that's not the point. This was a giant leap for this man's thinking. And while I could rant and rave on why he can't think of other women or why it's taken this long for this kind of acceptance or any number of other reasons, I'm not going to. Because Someone is in control here. Someone knows Creation much better than me and knows that for every pull there's a push, for every swing back, there's a thrust forward. It's not me -- thank God -- but after the devastating blow of the aforementioned document, the balance in my universe is restored . . . for this week.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Now That I Got That Off My Chest . . .

My mother found some of my poems the other day. Not the ones I'm writing now, mind you. No, these were from my how-small-towns-feel-like-a-prison-and-when-will-people-see-me-for-who-really-am era . . . in other words, I wrote them as a teenager.

She's sending them to me which makes me almost cringe because I kept what I thought were the best from those years and if these didn't even make that cut, well . . . it may prove painful to read. No more painful however than having your 74-year-old mother read a couple to you over the phone in her best Tennessee twang and then describe them as "cute."

One she selected had the term "Mother Love" in it. And I'm fairly certain that whatever she was reading into it was not what I had in mind at 15! However, now having heard it again after all these years, I can honestly say I have no idea what I meant. And I'm glad their cuteness made her happy.

Mom and I have a great relationship. We've been able to talk openly for most of my life. First of all because I used to have little to hide and secondly because by the time I did have some "issues" that I might not have wanted to be too open about, we'd come to the point where sharing them just seemed natural. While there was some level of discomfort at the idea that my mother has recently spent a day rummaging through my teenaged angst, the truth is she knows that the girl who ranted about limits eventually learned that they only existed in my mind.

Mom also reminded me that if not for Von Harrison I might not have ever pursued a path where words became the tools of my trade. Von was the pastor's wife during my teen years. She was also my Bible and missions teacher. But most of all, she was a friend.

Though she was only in her mid 30s, this was an era before age was relative so, of course, I saw her as ooooooold -- I mean she had three kids for goodness sake! -- but still very nice. And I especially liked that she seemed to especially like my writing. What I didn't know until they came out in print was that she'd liked my poetry so much that she'd sent it to a national publication.

I'll never forget the first time I saw that byline. And one of the first people I shared the moment with was Von.

I'm glad I did because later when I began to see lots more bylines, Von wasn't around to share those moments. Cancer killed her before she ever reached 40 -- an age I saw three years ago.

In many ways, she lives on. I'm sure her children obviously reflect that bit of her instilled in those early years, but they moved from our small town long, long ago. What I know is that she's always been and will always be a part of me.

And for all my ranting, that is the church at its best -- a community living and loving and caring enough to push to the hard places and then celebrating what happens when you go there.

A friend recently said, "I don't want to be an unloving critic of the church, but neither am I an uncritical lover." I liked that. Plus it was a good reminder of why I still do what I do 20 years into it. I'm one of those folks who finds it hard to stop loving the loves of my past. In fact, I don't want to.

But, just as with relationships, I do need to find a new way of relating and that's where I find myself now.

While I strongly believe that my walking away from my professional role is critical at this curve in my journey, I'm not ready to completely give up on what my mom and Von and so many other great women of the faith served so faithfully.

I once worked for an organization who included the line in its history, "We stand on the shoulders of those who've gone before us." I always liked that line. And I hold fast to the community it suggests. From that vantage point, I do see a new day coming. It looks nothing like First Baptist Church Greenfield, Tennessee circa 1975, or 1995 or 2005 but there's a vague outline there. And I see it only because of those who have taught me, loved me, forgiven me, challenged me and . . . released me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

"Can You Even See Your Feet?"

“Can you even see your feet?” my then-teenaged brother asked my equally teenaged self.

If at this point you’re surmising that I have rather large breasts, you’d be right.

If you are also thinking that this is a less-than-helpful remark from one’s sibling, you’d also be right. But at the time, being helpful wasn’t on my twin’s agenda.

If he encountered me – and while it was a small town and we were in the same classes, we were also in different “classes” regarding our social standings -- I got on his nerves. I represented all the things he wasn’t. I made As. I got in before curfew (while I was endowed with physical assets I’ve convinced myself that my mental ones tended to keep boys at a “friend-for-life distance”). I didn’t smoke or drink. I didn’t fall asleep in church because of partying on Saturday night. I didn’t yell at teachers . . . unless of course they were wrong and just couldn’t see my point of view. (Admit it . . . even you who didn’t know me then think I was obnoxious at this point in the story, right?).

His bad boy phase was short-lived however. At 16 he saw the light, mended his ways, even carried a Bible to school for a few days as I recall. And then he walked the aisle and told the preacher he was rededicating his life and felt “called to fulltime Christian service.”

Note he did not say “called to preach.” If you noted that, you would be one up on the church that received that information. Because at that time, that walk to the front of the church had very few interpretations and his walk bought him several years of ministry that he really didn’t count on.

The “happily-ever-after” end of his story though is that eventually he discovered his true calling and is now doing exactly what he wants/feels he should be/living out his call. . . in the mountains . . . in Tennessee, no less. . . . Did I mention he was happy?

I, still with rather large breasts, also did the whole “fulltime ministry” walk but I, still a woman, didn’t get the same reception. The church equivalent of a pat on the head sent me on my way to a Baptist school where I was fortunate enough to find a mentor who showed me communications didn’t have to be limited to a pulpit.

And for 20 years I’ve been “answering my call”. But things are different now. I wouldn’t pass the interview phase for a job as a cook at the schools that educated me. They have dress codes for women now! They require students to set through chapels led by speakers that I find small-minded and power-based. Professors must sign creedal-type statements.

As each year passed I’ve found the list of places where I would want to work getting shorter and shorter. My gender is an issue for some roles. My beliefs are an issue for almost every venue. And my silent submission is no longer an option.

So here I stand. And you know what? I CAN see my feet and soon and very soon they are walking.

In One Day, vol 1

The dentist hit a nerve in my mouth . . .
My former denomination did the same in my soul . . .
I pulled a muscle in my thigh . . .
And stretched an emotional one at open mic night.

May not have been a day filled with highs,
But no one can call it dull.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Just In Case They're Listening

"Shhhhhhhh . . . They'll hear us!" she chastised.

"But I thought we wanted them to. I thought we wanted to play with them," her younger cohort replied.

"We want them to want us to, but not if we have to make them," she not-so-patiently pointed out.

"But if they don't know we're here, how will they know to ask us to join?" the newbie inquired.

"Oh they know we're here . . ." she was using her wise-sage-voice now. "They've always known. Sometimes they pretend not to see is all."

"That doesn't make any sense," she innocently injected, yet with impatience growing. "They always seem to like it when we're around. I mean he's always patting me on the head. And he tells me all the time how smart and pretty I am. Why don't you like them?"

"I do like them. Well, what I know of them. I don't think we think alike. And I know that we have very different opinions about the way things ought to be done. But we don't talk about it. We're just nice to one another and frankly that's less and less fun. So sometimes, I'd just rather be invisible to them."

"But I can see you right?" she asked.

"Those who want to -- who try to -- will always see me."

Monday, November 08, 2004

Conversational Chemistry

I miss the mystery
That moment when nothing matters
And everything is important.

Heart Warming House Warming

Saint Brigid said
"All are welcome."
And with raised glass
I salud-ed her vision:
Heaven as a lake of beer
And every drop a prayer.

May be no lake here
But a washtub will do
As friends-now-family
Gathered to warm
And bless
My house-now-home.

Bread twist table legs
Didn't buckle beneath
The load.
But grandmother would be proud of
The breadth of the spread
(And appalled at the price
of the caterer's delights.)

Early arrivals were
Right on time
And exclaimed in
All the right places.

Patio perfected plants,
Warm walls as
Backdrops to
Art deemed very me
Shelves of memories
From trips real and imagined
Pauses to look
And ask the questions
Day to day doesn't always allow
The time for.

More corners to explore
More color to experience
More guests arriving.

The Southern-charmed chaplain
A tri-color hairdresser turning student
who often teaches me of life uncharted
A chain-smoking 70 year old former PE instructor
who knows no strangers
"Family" who greeted and grabbed . . . the trash when needed.

One pastor brought wine
Another deemed the gay actor among the evening's most intriguing conversations
The fundamentalist girlfriend stayed longer than expected and laughed
Tri-lingual traveler amused and amazed.
A stranger somehow connected and reported outcomes of cancer treatment that day

One pause for a Brigid reminder
One to end with prayer
Complete . . . and then not quite
As best friend/brother asked to add his comments to Creator

I held the hand of the stranger
Appropriate I think
Since he, wide-eyed and appreciative,
declared the night so very "positive."

Hugs and kisses
Sent most on their way
A remnant retired to the pool.
We quietly absorbed
The laughter of children
And offered up play-by-play of the day.

Seven hours in
(3 past official final call)
I closed the door
And smiled.

Brigid be glad.
All are welcome here.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Extreme Makeover

I spent the past 20 minutes in sob-out-loud-let-the-snot-flow crying. Extreme Makeover on ABC just remodeled the house of a couple who are deaf, who have a young blind, austistic son, and a teenaged boy who is often his parents' ears and his brother's eyes.

Can you blame me for the tears?

I'm don't watch reality TV for the most part. The closest I get is the Food Network and HGTV. I figure I have a better chance of creating a meal in 30 minutes or adding a little BAM to my menu than I do of ever running into an Apprentice, finding a Survivor, or catching up with a Bachelor. The truth is that I know enough about film-making to know that reality has little or nothing to do with these things. And I have plenty of my own "real life" drama and therefore no need to set through the tensions, conflicts, etc. of complete strangers.

But I came home early tonight, completed all my exercise plan earlier in the day and well . . . just got sucked into that cute carpenter guy with his bullhorn and abundance of enthusiasm. Of course, I soon discovered that this program was more than the usual good vibe show.

Seeing that child who spends most of his time in his own world taking EXTREME pleasure in his new swingset, complete with tinkling wind chimes nearby. My God, what a site! And seeing the father signing into the palm of his blind son -- think Helen Keller movie -- well, again, EXTREME overload.

I love that there is actually a show about helping people. Sure, there's a lot of money involved and money can't buy happiness. But from what I could tell this family had happiness. What they needed was a few electronic devices and some peace of mind.

I for one, sniff, sniff, sniff . . . am glad they got it!

Friday, November 05, 2004

What Were We Thinking?

After I posting the word feminist I got to thinking about it. For one, it's always difficult to determine whether I want to be associated with that term or not. If you consider it to mean that I'm for the rights of women to be equal to those of men, then sure, I'll go there. But if you take it to mean that I'm angry or ready to rise up and become the oppressor, well, then no, that's not me.

What stopped me, though, was the idea that while I will consent to being called a feminist because I support equal opportunities for women, there's no way I want to be a racist. Why do we do what we do with words?

Frankly, if I had my way, I really prefer to be a justicist.

Messiness Matters

Read the following in a review on yesterday:

"Crises of faith will make us either bitter or better: they either break us and cause us to abandon God or break us down and draw us nearer to Him. They are messy and there are no pat steps on how to get through them. All you can do is hold on to the tether of your faith until things hurt less.”

I think I’m now in the hurting less phase of things. That feels pretty darn good, I’ll tell you. What amuses me is what it’s taken to get there.

Atheists and agnostics have accompanied me on the journey. Gays and straights. Preachers and near pagans. And then there was . . .

Alcohol. Abstinence (not always by choice mind you).
Bitterness. Bastards.
Celtic thought. Caring.
Dirty jokes. Daring.
Exercise. Enthusiasm . . . mine and others.
Fevers, fainting.
Goofs, gratitude.
Hurt . . . mine and others.
Inklings that there was light at the end of the tunnel and there really was a tunnel.
Joy, indescribable, irrational, irrefutable, joy.
Kiss, one particular one that I'll never forget if I'm lucky. Kindness . . . mine and others.
Laughter, God thank you, thank you for the laughter.
Mom, who continues to amaze me, opening up to all that's
New . . . adventures, challenges, people.
Opinions . . . mine and others.
Pragmatic optimism . . . even in the midst of the darkness there was that "light at the end . . ." thing happening. Powerwalking.
Queers, queens(?) . . . don't usually use these words but they do.
Release of rules, regulations and religiosity.
Silence, sensations I didn't know were possible.
Truth . . . mine and others.
Unique-ness . . . mine and others.
Verdad. Vistas. Views I never thought I'd see.
Weariness. And words, glorious words.
And I'm not going to go with the last two because they would just sound silly. But I do feel exonerated and while it' s not an "X" word, thinking of x made me go there.

Would any preacher you know embrace the idea that it was by letting go of all the law that I became truly free to believe? I could name three who would go there, but otherwise . . . well, I kinda doubt it.

Locked Out!

For one of those computer-oriented-and-therefore-I-don't-really-want-to-know reasons, I've been locked out of posting for a while. I could read mine and other sites I've come to know, appreciate, laugh with, and wonder about, but I couldn't add to or respond in any way.

Is that just too obvious a metaphor for a feminist to go to? Especially when she was in a mostly-male-populated meeting yesterday that dealt with numbers, one of her all-time favorite subjects (she said sarcastically)?

Ok . . . I'll decline from hitting you with the obvious and just say, I'm back.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Line Up Went Well But No Manilow

Last night I treated a couple of friends to A Chorus Line for their birthdays. One had been in a local production so it seemed only fitting to help her see a touring company version. Both buddies seemed to enjoy our time together.

Tonight was all about Barry. As a volunteer at a local hospice, I had access to free tickets to see the songwriter at the Toyota Center. Alas! It's not to be. Barry is under the weather and the event is rescheduled.

Does it strike anyone as unusual that a 70s pop star and a play from the same era hit Houston on the same week? When I invited a friend/coworker to attend the concert with me, she asked me to recount Manilow's career hits. At 21 years old, she had a faint knowledge of Copacabana only. One of last night's birthday girls was all of 13. Yet, these young 'uns were more than willing to "expand their horizons" with a trip down 70s lane.

There's a pop song out right now "celebrating" some 80s tunes but questioning how then heavy metal with all its supposed rebelliousness is currently classified as "classic rock". This is getting strange. I'm not that old am I? With the stuff of my youth now warranting historicial, revue and classic status, it sure seems that way!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Feeling a Little Blue Today

Actually, a little blue and fringe-y. I mean did you see those electoral maps? With that big red blob consuming the central part of the nation? And little "bruises" on the edge begging for validity but ultimately getting "burned" by the heat?

Not that I vote a party ticket. I don't. In fact, a friend and I agreed we weren't really red or blue. We're purple people for the most part.

But if those maps are really indicators of the public at large, I find myself today part of the minority. Now that's not a rare place for me, mind you. I've been here before. In fact, I have residences in both the fringe and the minority states of mind. I am familiar with the terrain.

It's just that every once in a while, once in a "blue" moon if you will, I'd like to know what the majority feels like.

But I'm not willing to change my mind in order to find out.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Just Plane Thrilling

(written after a recent anxiety-producing plane trip home)

Too tight tomorrow
Grips one stomach muscle
And twists.

Plane travel ups & downs
Takes its turn at
Tummy turmoil.

She's supposed to help
But isn't.
He wants to help
But isn't.

Cancellations keep coming
From the Lord of the Loudspeaker.
Lines grow longer and
I'm left to gamble.

Take the known to the city unknown
and the possibilitease of more helpful agents . . .
Or stake out a stand-by spot and
cross all appendages in hopes that seat 50 stays empty?

I go with the gamble.

But while my head accepts the risk
My gut rebels.

Stay tuned.

Things I Learned This Weekend

  • I don't exactly jog a 5K, nor do I settle on simply walking. I'm more of a wogger. But, hey, I finished!
  • Elegant menus are a nice change of pace but they do require time, lots and lots of time.
  • If I "wog" a 5K on Saturday morning, top it off with a breakfast at a new-to-us place and a visit to the Farmers Market, prep for feeding 14 folks, trek to the plant store for patio refurbishing plants and then replant them, drop by the grocery for rolls and flowers, take said flowers to a Cambodian women's meeting where I'm celebrating and speaking, return to complete the meal for 14, host the 14, and then clean up after the 14 leave . . . then I'm not a whole lot of good until around 4 p.m. on Sunday.
  • The easy-to-complete recipes on the Food Network are not as easy as they look but they do come out well if you remember that it's all in the presentation.
  • "Retro" Halloween costumes are a state of mind. I wore a 60s outfit that any other day is a pair of my current capri pants and an oversized shirt.
  • I love the weekend . . . and the week!

A Prayer from Saint Theresa

Just read a fitting prayer to start the day and thought I'd share with you . . .

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
and pass on the love that has been given to you....
May you be content knowing you are a child of God....
Let this presence settle into our bones,
and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of you.

Enjoy the dance today!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Family Ties

I'm giving a birthday party tonight for a member of my family. Not the born-of-the-same-mother or even adopted-into kind of family, but family nonetheless. The kind of family you choose.

I'm blessed with a biological bond to an incredible group of people -- a sister who taught me what it means to be open minded and open armed, a brother, now deceased, who showed me how a good person could be a success even if he chose not to climb a corporate ladder, a twin who is truly my mirror but not in the physical sense . . . he's shown me what life would have been like had I made other choices, a mom who is still considered cool by my friends . . . and many more folks who remind me regularly that they love me.

The family I've chosen is just as precious to me. I've declared to one that we'll probably take care of each other in some old folks' home somewhere. Another makes the pain of losing a brother easier to bear since he fills in quite nicely. Still another makes me laugh . . . the greatest gift she could give me. One reminds me of my faith, even when I feel distant from it. Yet another listens and retells my stories so I won't forget the blessings I've collected. And several are in charge of challenging my sense of adventure.

Tonight we celebrate the contemplative soul among us. Don't assume solemnity here, however. As a southern gentleman he has mastered the fine art of charm drenched in irony. With a smile on his face and a pat on the back, he can either show you how much he cares or exactly where the door is that you'll be exiting from. But stay or leave, you'll be charmed.

I took time to write this prior to the party because as I was cooking and some of the guys were coming in and out of the apartment, I was transported back to the days when I "helped" grandmother in her kitchen for one of the holiday family get togethers. We lived next door to her and so were spared the packed-car-with-kids-and-toys-to-cross-the-state frustrations of Christmas gatherings. The energy of even those weary souls entering into my grandmother's domain was so present with me this afternoon. I couldn't help but compare one family to another.

The energy is similar as I said. The stories are about as long and . . . shall we just say "improved upon" as they were when my uncles were sharing them. Some of the "cares and concerns" are familiar as well . . . "Is she ever going to stop talking and help with these dishes?" from my childhood memories is rivaled with "How late do you think he/she/they'll be this time?" And through it all, there's this spirit that settles somewhere above the candlelight and yet pervades the room . . . and that spirit . . . the one that cuts through the sharp retorts, that soothes the criticized soul, that lengthens the hello hug and the goodbye embrace, that connects eyes and hearts across the crowded room . . . that spirit is what I call family.

There are differences I must acknowledge though. For one thing, there's not one item on my menu that's fried! The bread from Pillsbury's freezer bags is better than any thing I could pull together from scratch (Grandmother might even agree with that one). And my bio-family would have questioned only one vegetable, why any appetizers were needed, what exactly possesses someone to stuff a mushroom, and would have snuck the Jack Daniels into Grandmother's boiled custard rather than just have a glass of wine with the mushrooms!

Yet, I love them both. For all our likenesses and differences, I feel enriched. I can't imagine anything more real than times together as family and any family more real than those who choose to spend time together.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Words that Caught My Fancy Today

"A lot of what can be counted doesn't count, and a lot of what counts can't be counted." -- Albert Einstein

"The test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts at the same time while still retaining the ability to function." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Like all journalists, I'm a voyeur. I write about what I find fascinating. I used to write about travel. I traveled to escape the known and the ordinary. The longer I did this, the farther afield I had to go. By the time I found myself in Antarctica for the third time, I began to search closer at hand. I began to look for the foreign lands between the cracks. Science is one such land. -- Mary Roach in explaining why she wrote Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

California Trails

A rainy stroll through a redwood forest. An 8-mile hike up and down, up and down with a vista at the top to take your breath away. Six miles -- so the map says but seemed like less -- along the coast with seals barking in the background. And conversation, glorious conversation as the soundtrack for each step.

Add that to a time of connection -- my passion for teaching matched with a group who seemed to really want to hear what I had to say -- and well, this was a week to remember.

My life is good!

Sunday Morning in San Francisco

Sunday morning glory moment: powerwalking along the Great Highway in San Francisco, watching the blue (yes, blue, not chocolate brown ala Galveston) waves break into white mists that rise to meet the gulls that soar with a backdrop of clouds over the sea of purple T-shirt-clad women runners nearing the end of a marathon – everything in multiples . . . waves, sea birds, clouds and the runners in all shapes and sizes and colors and ages.

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time as the first finishers were cheered across the line. I also felt fortunate to be healthy enough to feel my own lungs expand with the intake of sea air and a certain amount of pride . . . in the women, the accomplishment, the supporters, my own sweat . . . just about everything.

God, it was beautiful.

Later, a tattered man, in his 50s or 60s, with a flesh-colored nose guard and hair that hadn't seen shampoo in a while hanging from beneath a soiled cap stood waiting beside me at the light.

"What is this?" he inquired. "I see it's a race but what for?"

"Nike Marathon," I huffed, trying not to appear too winded. "For leukemia."

"Oh. Is it over?"

"It's the beginning of the end," I said and crossed the street to keep walking up the hill.

He smiled. I'm not sure if it was at the race or the irony of the comment.

A first, a last and a new beginning

My first time
The bar was black
I crossed the line
I never looked back

The bar was black
Only movement could be sensed
I never looked back
I was simply convinced

Only movement could be sensed
Something sexual this way comes
I was simply convinced
Someone sexual this way stuns

Something sexual this way comes
Initially I choose not to see
Someone sexual this way stuns
Head down, remember to breathe

Initially I choose not to see
Images invade my space
Head down, remember to breathe
Friends vie to read my face

Images invade my space
Judgment is simply illusion
Friends vie to read my face
Every turn's an intrusion

Judgment is simply illusion
That’s not why I run
Every turn’s an intrusion
One’s sin is another’s fun

That’s not why I run
My leaving leads to a new start
One’s sin is another’s fun
Pain or pleasure? Trash or art?

My leaving leads to a new start
Blackness exists, but it’s not my home
Pain or pleasure? Trash or art?
Choices made, I’m not alone

Blackness exists but it’s not my home
Forward movement toward new light
Choices made, I’m not alone
Redefining wrong and right

Forward movement toward new light
Energized by the exit sign
Redefining wrong and right
My first time.

*This is a pantoum, a traditional form of poetry with abab rhyme pattern, numerous quatrains, and the first line of the current quatrain repeats the second line in the preceding and the third line repeats the fourth line of the preceding.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Yes, This Really Happens

"Do you have brothers and sisters?"

"I have an older sister and a twin brother and . . . "

Interrupting, "You have a twin? Are you identical?"

"No, he's taller."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

All the World's a Stage

Last night I met an actress I've admired for years. Tonight at another theater I sat by the playwright of the production.

Three years ago both encounters would have been impossible. I would never have approached either person. I would have considered them too important or too busy or too far removed from my world. I would have spent more time agonizing about what to say if I were to approach them than the actual conversations would have ever lasted.

What's changed?

Risk doesn't worry me anymore. Embarassment is rare these days. I've simply come to the conclusion that we're all human and if, by chance, they (strangers, people I would have once wanted to speak to but distanced myself from) are too busy, they'll let me know.

I also know that folks like to talk about themselves. The actress had recently directed readings of erotic women's poetry at a local venue and I was interested in knowing how the event was received. The playwright was simply sitting alone and waiting for his play to begin and I thought he looked slightly uncomfortable. So, while I tore tickets for those entering, he stood by me and we chatted about his writing, his travels, his children. Eventually, I learned he was in an award-winning BBC comedy and that he now writes because he can afford to since he's living off the residuals.

I wonder how many moments I missed because of my internal arguments regarding other people's reception of me? I wonder how many adventures I lost?

No more.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I thought of Bart tonight

I'm not going to use names alot on this blog. I decided early on to go with initials only. But now I'm going to break my rule.

I thought of Bart tonight.

Maybe it was because of a line in the play I saw that spoke of how much love a brother had had for another. Or maybe it was because a friend of mine lost a child through miscarriage this week and so death was on my mind. Or maybe it was because it was just time to think about him again.

Sometimes weeks . . . even months go by and I don't do him that honor. And so tonight, I wanted to remember him and do so "publicly" even if no one is reading this thing. At least tonight, his spirit is alive on this page.

Bart, my older brother by three years, died almost ten years ago. I actually had to think a while to determine if that's correct, but it is. He would be amazed at all that's happened in the last decade. The two that would devastate and delight him most (as far as connections to my world) is that I divorced (he was a very good, very conservative Baptist who was troubled by the women deacons we had in my previous church) and the Houston Oilers went to Tennessee, our home state.

The former would devastate him only because it would seem some how wrong to him and he didn't want bad things to come to me, to anyone. He would have had a hard time understanding it. But, I know, he would have accepted my act and he would never have made me feel less than, or judged.

The latter would have thrilled him only because it would have been more fodder for harrassment. And that man loved to pick at a person. Not just me, actually, he was pretty tame with me. But his children, his brother (my twin), my then-husband, my mom . . . he loved to push their buttons with a smile on his face and a pretend cigarette in his fingers. He had this odd practice of holding his fingers in such a way as to suggest he was smoking and even going so far as to inhale and occasionally stamp it out on the floor. I write this and think, that sounds strange no matter how you phrase it but he did it and it was amusing and I always smile when I think of it.

He was not concerned with fashion. The only thing I wanted when he died was one of the many colorful windbreakers he wore over a while cotton button down with a color coordinated fabric and mesh baseball hat. His "ensemble" was completed by a pair of blue work pants. As a postman in a small town, his "uniform" was informal but standardized.

The funeral for Bart include a "viewing" from about 6 p.m. until well past when it was supposed to have ended. Our hometown only had about 2000 residents and they all came. At least it felt like it.

He was one of those "never met a stranger" guys. He would start off with a grin (and his was a grin, not really a smile) and then ask a few questions, find your vulnerable spot and start the picking. If he liked you. If he didn't, he'd be polite, always the gentleman, but there was little time for picking. He gave of himself freely, but quietly, and we heard many stories we'd never heard from him about his generosity and compassion the night before we buried him.

He was a smart man but he didn't like the college life and left before finishing his degree. He had simple needs -- be a good husband, father, and church member. I think he succeeded at all three.

I vividly remember a Christmas eve where he was determined to make a memory for his then five year old twins. By the time I got to his house, they were watching TV and he was in the kitchen faking righteous indignation that his green icing was sliding down the side of his inverted sugar cone "trees" and the kids had already eaten most of the M&M ornaments that were supposed to have been used as decorations. I don't know that the kids got a Christmas memory out of the experience, but I certainly did as we laughingly cleaned up the mess and lamented that Ward Cleaver he was not.

We never agreed on much politically, spiritually, religiously, or socially. But we did agree that we could love each other as we disagreed. He was a man of peace, often the peacemaker in our little disfunctional family, and even though he was only 13 when our dad died, he never complained that early on mom turned to him as the man of the family.

I think of his kids . . . one loves music, the other is probably heading for a career in medicine, and the third -- the one born after his death -- is so very much like him, even down to the grin . . . and I know that he would be very proud. I have a bit of a pang that he won't get to play out the role he was probably most right to play -- grandfather.

And yet, while I do have the occasionaly pang, I don't fret for him. He would have abhorred that. Ever the pragmatic, he would be good with the fact that his beautiful wife remarried and has a wonderful life and would want that life, indeed, has gone on.

Still, I don't want it to go on at such a pace that I forget. He's too good a memory. So I thought of Bart tonight. And now I feel better.

I love St. Brigid

I* don't know if she was goddess or saint or (like most of us) somewhere slightly south of all that. But I do know that I love the idea of her. She was the saint of the oppressed and the embarrassed of all things! How can you not love that?!!!

One of the things I love most is the view of heaven attributed to her. Here's how B. Kennelly, a poet put it:

St. Brigid’s Ale Soliloquy

I’d like to give a lake of beer to God,
I’d love the Heavenly Host to be tippling there
for all eternity.
I’d love the men of heaven to live with me,
to dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering,
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make the men happy for their own sakes.
I’d like Jesus to be there too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather
from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women and God,
There by the lake of beer.
We’d be drinking good health forever
and every drop would be a prayer.

Now if you read that aloud with a lilt in your voice and -- if you're like me -- an accent derived from part Scotty on Star Trek, part Irish Spring commericials and part the Lucky Charms guy, you'll pretty much know why I smile everytime I read it.

I also smile because Brigid welcomed all. I long to be so welcoming, so free with what I have that it matters not if when offered to you it is then soiled, displaced, or destroyed, but that what matters is that it is offered. I'm not there yet. Maybe someday . . .

If you want to know a bit more about old Brigid, read on. This is from the pages of a book sold in the town of Kildare, where Brigid called home:

Brigid is the woman who, above all others, embodies the spirit of pre-Christian Celtic and Christian Celtic Ireland. Her life inspires unity and reconciliation. In a world of much fragmentation, with many divides, there is a search for unity, a search for connection, a search for a sense of the whole family, human and natural. ‘In her femininity, Brigid inclusively embraces many kinds of cross currents, some of them apparently contradictory – the ancient and the new, the pagan and the Christian, the animal and the human, the rich and the poor, -- and from this it is clear that her ample cloak can accommodate all kinds of apparently irreconcilable differences.’ There is a traditional invocation: Faoi bhrat Bhride sinn – May we be under the cloak of Brigid.

Brigid is associated in Irish folklore and literature with the gifts of poetry, healing and smithcraft, and is also identified with nurture, fertility, and fire. She is known for her faith, her healing powers, her skill with animals, her hospitality, her generosity and, especially, her concern for the poor, the oppressed or the embarrassed.

*Feeling a little "Campbell-esque" today and wanting to share from my heritage.

Built a Cairn Today

Built a cairn today
Partially to remember
And then
To walk away.

Words spoken and un-
Moments to regret
Relationships shunned.

Stones selected, carefully laid
Prayers whispered
Promises made.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

What A Ride

The "late night ride" lived up to its billing. We started at 10 p.m. and I finally put my head on my pillow the next morning at 4 a.m. Encompassed in those hours were a few miles on my trusty bike to downtown, weaving in and out of party-ers on Main, great conversation over coffee, circling downtown parks and parking lots in our own version of an obstacle course, garlic tofu at an all-night Asian restaurant overlowing with those same party-ers, and a couple of stop-and-live-in-the-moment moments.

An adventure? Definitely. Worth it? Definitely. To be repeated? Not exactly.

Wind in the face in the early morning hours is an exquisite experience. I'd take that again any day/night. Stories of great views we've seen, strange foods we've eaten, stimulating people we've met, all the while watching the passing parade of diverse downtown fashion -- that's a conversation over coffee that's worthy of repetition without a doubt.

But I learned something. What you see on a bike in downtown Houston at 1:00 in the morning is pretty much what you are going to see in downtown Houston at 2:00 in the morning and almost exactly what you'll see at 3:00 in the morning -- only the degree changes. If someone is loud at 1:00, they're louder at 2 and 3. If someone is dazed and confused at 1:00 they're probably out of it at 3. If someone is defying gravity with the blouse she's got on at 1:00, the fabric is stretched to its limit by 3. Basically, if you're loaded at 1:00, then you're driving at 3 and asking for directions to the freeway that I'm not all that sure I should be giving you.

In other words, there are a lot of people drinking a lot of alcohol in downtown Houston at 1, 2 and 3 in the morning.

And even if I wear white so you can see me on my very cool red bike . . . and even if my new friend and conversationalist has a light on his even cooler two wheeler. . . and even if my guide to this rather radical experience knows exactly where we are going . . . I can't keep the two voices in my head from arguing with one another.

One says, "That truck is driving way too fast and if you're not paying attention, you're going to get hit." And, "We're going to ride in front of the bus station??? Are you crazy? Look at that guy. He could grab your bike in a second and you'd be down for the count."

While the other admonishes, "You'd never get to see the streets of the city in this light if you weren't here at this moment." And, "Adventures involve risk and are almost always worth it. See? That guy didn't even notice you. He was probably concerned about your sanity."

So I decided to listen to both.

That night I took every moment as it came -- the waterfall in the theater district, the guy who couldn't find the bar or his car and needed more help than we could give (though we tried), the songs playing in and outside the clubs that would get stuck in my head and I'd sing lines from throughout the morning, the cast of characters at the restaurant, the tales of travels past and desired future, the cold -- yes cold -- ride home.

But, if asked to join this merry band once again, I'd agree on one condition -- I'm heading home at midnight.

Shall We Dance?

Quick, quick, slow, step, step.

1-2-3, left, right, 1-2-3.

Backwards on the balls of my feet . . . forward slide.

Whew, there's way more thinking to this dance stuff than I ever imagined! Still, I absolutely love the feeling of a hand in the middle of my back, practically steering me from one twirl to the next. When it's right . . . and with my dear friend B at the wheel the only reason it's not is when I try to "drive", it's an out-of-body experience.

There are few times in life when I want desperately to lose control, to let go and see where the moment takes me. Too much seems to be at stake . . . my reputation, my professionalism, my confidence, my fragile psyche (that was a joke) . . . but on the dance floor, I long for it. Because it's only in the letting go that you find the right-ness of it all.

In Ecuador my salsa teacher only spoke Spanish and while I was going to classes four hours each morning I still needed a translator when he told me to leave my dance partner and friend and join him for the evening. No, he was not amazed at my dancing ability. He told our translator, "Tell her that while it is good to have a strong personality, on the dance floor, the man takes the lead." Ouch!

While I wanted to let my friend lead, he was new to the dance and less than confident. We had chatted about it and I thought that I was following, but obviously our instructor thought otherwise. So I spent the evening in his arms and out as he instructed each couple with details on what they were doing wrong but somehow not so wrong that they needed him to take them on as his new partner. I waited and watched and followed. And finally, at the close of the class when he added several steps, turns, twirls and squeezes that I attentively followed to the max and that he had not given instruction for, he grabbed me even tighter at the waist and said in my ear, "Muy bien!"

Damn right, muy bien!

When I trust that the leader will truly lead, that it's not a matter of lack of knowledge, or confidence, or insecurity or whatever, then I can follow. But I'm sad to say, I rarely sense that.

Except with B. He's got almost 30 years on me and he's filled it with learning square dance, clogging, Texas two steps and line dances, and, I hear most recently, he's added Mexican dance to his repertoire. He's so dear that he counts for me and with a smile on his face every time, reminds me that "you have to keep the count even if you're not moving forward or backward," "you're in no hurry, don't race through it," and "now you just keep going while I do the turning." After about three dances last night, I remembered the hours of bike riding I'd done this weekend and the recent late nights and wondered if I was going to physically keep up with him. After the fourth dance when he twirled me around the dance floor for two full cycles and I swear I thought my soul might be looking down on my body, I didn't care if my legs fell off and my lungs exploded out of my chest, I was staying until he said stop!

I still remember the first time I danced with someone who knew how to lead. It was a dance in my church gym and only a few years ago. (I should probably note here that my era of teenage dancing never included partners actually touching one another.) We went out on the floor and as usual, I went left when he wanted to go right, I stepped when I should have slid, I couldn't count, etc. But for some reason I took a breath and finally felt that hand in my back . . . that strong hand . . . that hand that I somehow knew would guide me in the way that I should go. And I let go.

My God, what a rush. I had no idea what was coming next and it didn't matter. I had no sense of self and it was inconsequential. I had no claim to the minutes passing, and I gave it up willingly. I was gliding. I don't know if it looked that way to anyone watching but as far as I was concerned, I was Cinderella (in the cartoon version where her feet really never move, but she and her dress truly float across the ballroom) and magic was happening. And then I saw something all too real out of the corner of my eye and it was over. Might have been the basketball goal, the table near the dance floor or a friend, I don't know but suddenly reality returned and I was painfully aware of my foot as it stepped on his and then rushed to correct it by overcorrecting it and . . . well, you get the idea. The moment was gone.

But that moment, and moments like this weekend, are enough of a drug to keep me coming back, keep me learning, keep me longing to let go just one more time and . . . truly . . . dance.